By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

A date has not been set for the closing of the Toys“R”Us distribution center and officials at corporate headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey haven’t responded to inquiries from the Lee’s Summit Tribune. But the Economic Development Council is confident that the 300 workers at Toys“R”Us will find jobs and another tenant can be found for the 400,000 square foot warehouse distribution center at 420 SE. Thompson Drive.

“Within our group we’ve formed a human resources committee made of Lee’s Summit human resources representatives and we’re the lead on that group,” said Rick McDowell, president of the council. “We’ve reached out to Toys“R”Us and have had some employers reach out to us who are interested in meeting with those folks. I feel comfortable that we can help find work for the employees in Lee’s Summit and the surrounding areas.”

McDowell noted that Lee’s Summit has few industrial buildings available. “This is one of the few available and I don’t know the details about the building and have never been in the facility but I’m confident that we can find a tenant.”

The distribution center is part of a massive shutdown and restructuring of Toys“R”Us worldwide. Five stores are being closed with the distribution center in the Kansas City metro area. Toys“R”Us announced on March 15 filing bankruptcy and beginning the process of closing down and liquidating 735 of the company’s stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Toys“R”Us had about 60,000 full-time and part-time employees worldwide last year.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Toys“R”Us Dave Brandon made this statement that was posted on the company’s website.

“I am very disappointed with the result, but we no longer have the financial support to continue the Company’s U.S. operations. We are therefore implementing an orderly process to shutter our U.S. operations and will pursue going concern sales or reorganizations of certain of our international businesses, while our other international businesses consider their options.

“There are many people and organizations who have remained in our corner every step along the way. I want to thank our extraordinary team members who helped build Toys“R”Us into a global brand. I also want to express my appreciation for my colleagues on our board who have continued to provide support to sustain the brand and our operations throughout the restructuring process. I would also like to thank our vendors who we owe a great deal of gratitude to for their decades of support. This is a profoundly sad day for us as well as the millions of kids and families who we have served for the past 70 years.”

The Associated Press reported that Toys“R”Us founder, Charles Lazarus, died on March 22. Toys“R”Us issued this statement on its website:

“There have been many sad moments for Toys“R”Us in recent weeks, and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder, Charles Lazarus, after a period of declining health. He visited us in New Jersey just last year and we will forever be grateful for his positive energy, passion for the customer and love for children everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Charles’ family and loved ones.”

On the same day, The Associated Press reported that toy manufacturer, Isaac Larian, launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the struggling chain. Larian, chief executive of California-based MGA Entertainment Inc., a privately held toy and entertainment company, and other investors have pledged over $200 million. Larian is seeking to raise another $800 million to make a $1 billion bid to acquire some or all of some Toys“R”Us assets through the bankruptcy process.